Tributes pour in for Four Oaks' Pat Coutts UPDATED

Many tributes have been made to Pat Coutts, who has died aged 76.

Pat Coutts

Pat Coutts, who died on 30 August, was organiser of the Four Oaks trade show in Cheshire for half a century - read her obituary here.

Four Oaks' Christina Walker paid tribute: "‘Fancy a brew? You can have one of my good mugs,’ Pat said warmly from across the desk at my interview in 2007 and I knew I’d got the job! I instantly took to her down-to-earth Cheshire friendliness and a really special 14 year relationship began. This was after she’d cut to the chase about what was required to work with her on the Four Oaks Trade Show of course – high standards in everything and nothing less would do.

"These two traits really sum up the Pat I knew – she combined remarkable drive, a hard work ethos and consummate professionalism with extreme warmth, kindness and a good sense of humour. Pat gave everything to make the trade show a success and gleaned great pleasure from helping exhibitors with every aspect of their participation, leading the trade show culture in going above and beyond through example.

"She worked tirelessly to develop the event into a major international trade show, successfully bringing the horticulture industry together year on year and supporting businesses in the industry she loved. Their success was her greatest reward.

"Late on the Wednesday night of each show we would wind down, absolutely exhausted, enjoying stories of exhibitor’s triumphs and recalling the funny and sometimes not so funny events of that year’s show, relieved and satisfied that we had risen to the challenge of organising a major event. ‘We did it again!’ we’d say and hug. It was only ever a fleeting moment of reflection and emotion, because the next day it would be back to business clearing the site and discussing the following year’s plans. I will miss that hug intensely.

"I learned a great deal from Pat and was privileged to become so close to a very special, fearless, determined woman who carved out a career that deserves to make her a horticultural legend. I was due to visit Pat this week to finalise a statement announcing her retirement and a very well deserved Lifetime Achievement Award from Horticulture Week for services to horticulture. In a way it is fitting that we never got to release that statement – because Pat never wanted to retire! She often said ‘horticulture is for life’ and Pat happily dedicated hers to serving the horticultural industry.

"RIP Pat Coutts – friend, boss, mentor, inspiration."

LBS Horticulture  "Pat was one of the true greats within the Horticultural World and the pillar of the Four Oaks Trade Show, she will be dearly missed.  Our condolences go out to her family, friends and colleagues."

Kolff Plants Jacob Kolff said: "I have known Pat for a very long time. She was the best. We will miss her very much. My condolences to her family, friends and all at Four Oaks."

Plantline: "We were always warmly welcomed to the show by Pat, who without fail did her best to accomodate us each year, for which we are continually grateful. Our thoughts are with Pat’s family, friends and colleagues at this sad time, she will be greatly missed. Deepest sympathies from all the team at Plantline."

Ball Colegrave's Stuart Lowen said: "Pat called me last week from Macclesfield hospital to let me know she was waiting to head home for her last days and what she had planned ahead of this. It was an incredibly difficult conversation to have to say our final farewells to each other. But that was Pat, organised right up to the end.

"The whole team at Ball have been incredibly saddened by the tremendous loss of Pat. She was indeed one of the great characters who worked tirelessly on behalf of the industry. I knew Pat for her unbelievable warmth, helpfulness and cheeriness, no matter how much pressure she was personally under, she always put her friends, colleagues and exhibitors first - she was the true spirit for Four Oaks Trade Show. Pat immediately became a friend to anyone who had the pleasure of meeting her and will be dearly missed by so many across our industry. We send our deepest condolences to Pat's family."

Arno Rijnbeek of Rijnbeek Perennials said: "We are really thankful to her as she was a big help for us at the Four Oaks Show. Always there for a small talk, smile and a lot of help. If it was for the booth, electricity, website, advertising or getting the windows of the greenhouse closed or open during the show, it didn’t matter what she was always willing to help. We wish everyone around her a lot of strength in the time coming."

Mike Francis, Steve Collins and all the team at Suttons Nurseries said: "We are all so very sad to hear about the passing of Pat. We have some wonderful memories of Pat from our many years of exhibiting at Four Oaks. She will be greatly missed."

Grant Collier and former colleagues at Nexus Business Media said: "It is with great sadness to read this. We at Nexus Media worked with Pat when she helped develop several trade shows some 20 years ago and she was truly gifted and one of the kindest people you could hope to meet. She was also truly devoted to Four Oaks and will be greatly missed by all that knew her."

Neil Bragg said: " A really sad loss if a very special person who gave so much to our UK horticultural industry. Her ability to manage the show and look after all the exhibitors was outstanding, even down to the years when she arranged a nursery for very young children so exhibitors could still participate."

Garden Organic's Sally Cunningham said: "So sorry to hear about this, I had heard she was ill but had not appreciated just how seriously. Pat was always so friendly, helpful and welcoming to everybody at Four Oaks from its early beginnings to the huge event it became. 

"Just one example- my motorbike gear had a place reserved for it locked in the cleaner's cupboard every year for a day in early September after I'd ridden up from Leicestershire, to keep it safe - while I did a quick-change act in the ladies before visiting the show! Sympathies and best wishes to the family, as well as everybody at the nursery and Four Oaks show team."

Anthony Andrews, who as an exhibitor that started at Four Oaks as Finney Lock Seeds in the very early days of the exhibition, and then came back as PAC: "I had been involved as an exhibitor at the Fours Oaks Trade Show soon after its conception, and then after a gap of several years, returned wearing a ‘different hat’. Pat always accommodated us, and I had a presence at the show up until my retirement in 2017.

"She will always be remembered for her warmth and friendship but professional approach in all she did. We exchanged Christmas cards each year and through last year’s card learnt of her fight against cancer. Less than three weeks ago Pat called me, having found my number through a colleague, to tell me that her end was near. It was not an easy conversation for me but left me and my wife so humbled by her insistence to tell friends of her imminent death.

"Pat leaves a wonderful epitaph in the success of the Four Oaks Trade Show and will remain an example to us all, of a very brave and caring person. May she rest in peace."

Walter Blom Plants' Stephen Page said: "One of the great characters of UK horticulture, we will miss her. Condolences to her family and friends. RIP Pat."

Floramedia UK's Beth Graves said: "She was the face of Four Oaks.. Condolences to her family."

Arthur Murray of C. Hetherington, Chandlers Garden Centre and A&S Agencies, said: "So sad to hear of the passing of Pat, a stalwart of the horticultural trade. I met Pat at the first Four Oaks show and every visit as a buyer and as an exhibitor she always greeted you and remembered your name."

Pöppelmann's Paul Cooke said: "Please pass on all condolences and sympathy to Pat's family. She was a shinning light in horticulture and drove the Four Oaks show to great heights. She greeted everyone with a smile and had time for all. She will be sadly missed and leaves a great void to be filled. RIP Pat your legacy will always be remembered."

Seiont Nurseries' Neil Alcock said her death was "very sad news" while Woodlands Wholesale's Jamie Downes said: "How sad, Four Oaks will never be the same."

Neil Dunn said: "Sad to hear about this…our condolences go out to her colleagues, friends and family; from all here at Dura-ID."

Desch Plantpak's Phil Griffiths said: "A real stalwart of the UK horticultural industry who worked tirelessly to promote all of our businesses through the Four Oaks Show. Knew her from way back in the Nexus days - always there to help in anyway she could. A character with real spirit and will be sadly missed."

Southern Trident's Ian Riggs said: "Very sad news."

Hillview Hardy Plants' Sarah Millington said: "Sad news. She’ll be missed." Phil Evans said: "The void left by Pat will remain. I pray that Four Oaks continues in its proven format in memory of her and the legacy she leaves behind. It was more than a privilege to know her." John Chiffers said: "That’s very sad to hear; what a wonderfully energetic woman!

Iain Pentney, general manager at Classiflora Imports, said: "Will be sadly missed our thoughts are with her family and friends."

Remin (Scotland) technical director Jennifer Brodie said: "It is so, so sad to read of the passing of Pat Coutts. Since first exhibiting rock dust at Four Oaks in 2008, by sharing a stand with Grazers Ltd, I was so impressed with how well Pat looked after us all. Nothing was too much bother and her squadrons of yellow t-shirted free lunch, tea, coffee and biscuit helpers, the general ambience of friendliness, and of course the resulting guaranteed turn out, stands testimony that she new how to look after folk. It is fair to say REMIN (Scotland) Ltd’s partnership with Agralan Ltd is thanks in part to Pat.  Rest in Peace good lady, you will be sorely missed."

Key Essentials director Mark Smith said: "My goodness, what a legend. Pat must have known more people in the industry than anyone. And was loved by all. A very sad loss to horticulture and I wish her family and colleagues best wishes."

Frank Jackson, operations director for Impact Security Solutions, said: "We worked for Pat for 18 years on the Four Oaks trade show, and I have to say I have never worked for a more professional customer, she was the kindest soul you could wish to meet, and one of the hardest working woman I have ever met. RIP Pat, you will be greatly missed ."

Denis Smith said: "We rented the bungalow attached to Four Oaks a few years ago and Pat was lovely to us.  She loved our dog Annie and I always took her in to the office to say hello to Pat when we were out walking.  She was always pleased to see Annie, more so than me I think lol!  Rest in peace Pat.  We will miss you."

Haymarket's Roisin Kennedy said: "I feel really fortunate to have been able to work with and get to know Pat over many years.  Pat was the Four Oaks show going above and beyond to ensure everyone was so well looked after, she truly was unique. I am so sad at her passing but not surprised that she kept her wonderful charm and determination to keep going until the very end. She will be sorely missed by the wider horticulture industry who became her friends."
HTA president Boyd Douglas-Davies said: "Pat's endless energy and enthusiasm made the Four Oaks Show a 'must attend' event for anyone growing or selling garden plants. She had the ability to be everywhere, it seemed, at all times and was never seen without a big smile." 

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